Gentlemen of Influence, Part I:
Christopher James, The Man Behind the Blogger
Gentlemen of Influence is a 3-part blog series honoring the American gentleman. As the Gentleman's Bow Tie, R. Hanauer investigates what makes a gentleman in today's culture and hopes to share the qualities possessed by the gentlemen we know, to those who appreciate similar values.
CONTEST: Share a picture of a gentleman in your life using the hashtag #RHGentleman and tag us @rhanauerbowties. One nominated gentleman will win a $150 gift card to R. Hanauer and a featured interview for Part III of our series. Ends Sunday, June 18th at midnight.
If you follow fashion influencers, there’s a good chance you might be one of Mattie James’ 39,700 followers on Instagram, 19,000 followers on Twitter or one of her 8,000 subscribers on YouTube. Mattie James entered the blogging business in 2008, writing mostly about personal interests and experiences. In 2013, she started posting frequently across multiple digital platforms, which led to her booming business, MattieJames.com; an online blog where she shares everything from fashion finds to business advice.
Atlanta-based designer, Christopher James, recalls the early days of his wife’s career. At the time, most bloggers were sharing personal thoughts and a few spontaneous photos and blogging was a diluted version of the massive industry it is today. From day one, Christopher and Mattie have partnered to fuel the success of MattieJames.com and in 2014, became partners in another important venture, parenthood. Daughter Maizah arrived in September and then there were three.
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered what it looks like to be married to a famous fashion blogger and how you constantly share your life with thousands of followers. We decided to shine the spotlight on Christopher to explore what it means to be a husband, a father, a business partner and a true gentleman in a world where photos are staged but life is still very real.
Q: Christopher, how did you feel when Mattie first wanted to start her blog?
Christopher: When Mattie first started out around 2003, there were web blogs where people just write journals online. When she decided to take it seriously, I felt like it was a natural fit for her. I’ve always seen her as a person who can be on the same level as an Oprah Winfrey or a Martha Stewart. She can turn her life into a brand. That’s always been my focus, is to steer the brand in that direction. From day one, I’ve always tried to support that vision.
Q: Mattie, what are Christopher’s biggest strengths and how has he helped you become the successful business owner that you are today?
Mattie: Sometimes, when you don’t believe in yourself, success is really hard to digest. I’m finally getting to that place where I feel like I could be that big. I’ve always looked at Chris as a leader of the company and there are so many things we want to accomplish individually, but also collectively. He is certainly the visionary out of the two of us and I’m the executor.
He’s incredibly compassionate, which is something that I’m still trying to learn. He is very invested. He is just so supportive. I also think he’s really funny! He’s extremely funny which is one of the reasons why I love him and it gets me through my tough days. Even when I want to be frustrated with him, he’ll figure out a way to slip in a joke and it’ll make me laugh. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-importance or stress and you need somebody to slip a joke to help you realize you shouldn’t take yourself so seriously.
Q: How does your family fit in with the blogging business?
M: For whatever reason, we all thought it would be easy. Starting a business would be easy; getting married to the love of your life would be easy; having a cute baby would be easy. These things are blessings and we definitely don’t take them for granted, but they are much, much harder than we expected and it makes me appreciate them even more. I’m really excited that I have somebody that is a creative and understands that this dream of making this blog and that it isn’t just a pie in the sky kind of dream.
C: We are complete opposites in that Mattie is the extrovert and I am very much the introvert but, in that, we have our own set of skills that allow us to act as a cohesive and very perceptive team. Mattie’s strength is that she is a dreamer but she also has the capacity to achieve anything she sets her mind to. I’m really good at plans, strategy, logistics and those sorts of things. I think, in helping build the brand over the last seven years, it is working together has allowed her to reach the level of success where she is now. In my opinion, it’s only a starting point for her.
Q: Let’s talk about Christopher as a dad to Maizah (age 2). M: Chris is just the most amazing dad because he’s just so invested. They literally have the same face and the same temperament so it’s just like being with his mini-me. He’s so hands on, he makes sure she doesn’t limit herself and he always reinforces that. Sometimes she’ll get frustrated and says “Oh dad, I can’t” and he always reinforces her with “Yes you can!” and it’s immediately evident in her behavior. As a little girl, to have that kind of encouragement, support and love from your father is so important. They play, they laugh, and they can just sit in silence and watch TV together. He just brings out the light in her and it fills me with such pride. He makes me a better mother if I’m being honest.
C: I take my responsibility as a father very seriously. Mattie was the conduit to us receiving this blessing so if I can honor her, it’s the least I can do. Mattie actually had an emergency C-section and was close to being in a very bad situation on the operating table. It’s the least that I can do to try to support her in parenthood. It’s not about just being a father; it’s about sharing the load of ushering a child into adulthood. I want to do everything that I can to the best of my ability whether it’s parenthood, this business or our friendship as a couple.
Q: People argue that technology is undermining meaningful human interaction and impacting our relationships. What does a modern gentleman look like and how does Christopher embody that?
M: I really think that Chris embodies the epitome of a gentleman. A lot of times we associate being a gentleman with only style or what’s shown in the movies. I think it’s a respectful man who has a gentle yet intentional approach. If you are gentle but intentional, like Chris is, you receive the respect you give.
C: For me, a gentleman would be a man’s man but a man’s man who is in touch with his emotional self and his vulnerability. Also to be courteous and open doors, pull out chairs or stand up while people are being seated. Someone who’s adept at handling themselves in multiple situations, whether you’re at a sporting event or church or just out with the guys; to handle all situations with respect and command respect with your approach and your attitude.
Q: Christopher, if there’s one lesson that you want Maizah to learn from you and carry with her through life, what is it?
C: That’s to approach every situation from the point of view of love because, if she does that, then the rest will take care of itself.
*Christopher is wearing our Vero Dots Bow Tie, $70.00.